Secular Cycles by Peter Turchin and Sergey A. Nefedov investigates the nature of biological and economic growth in combination with the characteristic social structures and power relationships unique to humans. This combination of Marxian and Malthusian analysis provides an interesting approach which can be developed to help predict future developments and understand how history develops.

The book (really an academic paper) is an analysis based on various data which have survived the ravages of time. It looks at cycles which occurred in various regions and times in the past, including Rome, France, England, and Russia. It shows how time after time humans progress, only to regress. And this “dis-integration” may be caused by either biological constraints and/or existing political structures. There also appears to be characteristic times which tend to correspond to successive generations or every other generation. And this wave or cyclical behavior is inherent in the complex system of homo-sapiens — being a social animal who spends 20+ years acquiring the knowledge and skills of ancestors.

I can only wish that more quantitative data were available to study ancient humans; ironically it is the “dis-integrative” phases of growth where data, observations, and history are destroyed and lost forever. Perhaps the next “integrative” phase of societal growth is a function of how much information is preserved from the previous “integrative” phase (think about Library of Alexandria). Formulaic conclusions based upon detailed and consistent data extending to the remote reaches of the past may forever be lost. Sometimes this data can be cleverly reconstructed (see here). Most of the time the data can not be obtained and this should serve to emphasize the importance of preserving the Noosphere for the sake of future societies.